THE BLOG
09/14/2010 11:34 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Instant Runoff Voting: Thumbs Up From Rachel Maddow, Federal Judge, North Carolina, More

Ever wonder why voting for the candidate you most want can result in the election of the candidate you dislike the most? Welcome to the funhouse mirror qualities of plurality voting, our current method that can turn the lemonade of increased voter choice into spoiled elections. More people are realizing it's time to adopt the ranked choice voting method of instant runoff voting (IRV).

This month has been a remarkable one for IRV advocates. On a national level, Great Britain took a major step toward a May 2011 national referendum on adopting IRV for its parliamentary elections -- one likely to be the country's first national referendum of any sort in decades. Australia's national elections underscored how with IRV voters can fearlessly back third parties without forfeiting their chance to indicate a preference between the major parties -- a value made all the more relevant by controversies over efforts by partisan operatives in the United States to split opposition votes through "faux" third party candidacies.

American support for IRV continues to grow. Notable new voices for IRV this month included MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, constitutional law professor Richard Pildes and Parade Magazine columnist Marilyn dos Savant. This November IRV will be on the ballot in elections in Maine's biggest city (Portland) and Tennessee's biggest county (Shelby). North Carolina will hold the first statewide general elections with IRV in American history, and its state board seems to be rising to the challenge well. Three California cities are using IRV for the first time, including Oakland (CA) in a hotly contested mayor's race. A federal change dismissed a frivolous, but well-financed challenge to IRV as practiced in San Francisco.

Onto notable links:

* Federal judge Richard Seeborg issued a summary judgment rejecting a legal challenge to San Francisco's landmark IRV system in an opinion drawing extensive local news coverage.

* Controversies swirling around "fake" third-party candidates in a number of states prompted MSNBC's Rachel Maddow to take a hard look at the "spoiler effect" of candidates placed on the ballot to siphon votes from major parties. Watch Maddow explain her solution: instant runoff voting. Read FairVote blogs by Chris Marchsteiner on the problem of split votes and spoilers in general elections and by Cathy Le on problems in primary elections.

* North Carolina continued preparations for the first statewide instant runoff voting election in history with a new special edition voter guide. The Wilmington Star News touted this year's IRV electionas an important step toward using IRV in more state elections.

* Civic reformers are gearing up for ballot measures to win IRV in places like Portland (ME), Shelby County (TN) and Fort Collins (CO). The New York City Charter Revision Commission's final report (pp. 69-71) recommended IRV for future consideration, as called for by the city's former Public Advocate Mark Green. Oakland and nearby cities are gearing up for their first IRV elections for mayor with new county educational resources.

* Parade columnist Marilyn vos Savant spotlighted IRV (and the National Popular Vote plan, another excellent proposal), while NYU constitutional law professor Richard Pildes backed IRV in a Big Think video. Even science fiction fans got in on IRV, using it once again to elect this year's winners of the Hugo Awards -- as do students these days at some five dozen American colleges and universities in electing their student leaders.

* The British House of Commons on September 6th cast a key vote to hold a national referendum in May 2011 on adopting IRV, and editorials backing IRV ran in the Guardian and Financial Times newspapers. Millions of votes are being cast by mail in IRV elections for the British Labor Party's next leader. Australia formed a new Labor-Green government after its recent IRV elections where the Labor Party lost a significant share of support, but most of it to the Greens rather than its major opposition party.

Stayed tuned for the latest at FairVote and its Twitter account.